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Penticton  

Alta. MP visits wine country

Several winery owners in the Okanagan feel it's up to the federal government to end the "growing animosity" between governments in B.C. and Alberta.

That was the response Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards heard when he met with several owners at Liquidity Wines in OK Falls on Friday. 

"The biggest thing (for them) is this growing dispute between B.C. and Alberta," Richards said, who is the federal tourism critic for the official opposition.

Richards said the political quarrel between B.C. and Alberta borders on being a "national unity crisis," as he described it.

"You have provinces that have such great cooperation between them, typically, now having this kind of animosity... is absolutely nuts, frankly, that that exists in a free country like Canada."

It's been more than a month since Alberta Premier Rachel Notley boycotted B.C. wines by banning imports, as retaliation to B.C. Premier John Horgan's attempt to postpone the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Alberta suspended that ban of B.C. wine 16 days later. On Thursday, Notley threatened to cut off oil imports to B.C. if Horgan's government doesn't agree to expand the oil pipeline. 

"Whether it be oil workers in Alberta, whether it be tourism operators or winery owners in B.C., there's harm being done to businesses and jobs and opportunities on both sides," Richards said.

Jack Meyer, who owns Meyer Family Vineyards in OK Falls, was one of the winery owners who met with Richards on Friday. He said winery owners are feeling the pinch of the trade dispute.

"A lot of it has to do with... issues that really have nothing to do with us. But we were saying to (Richards) that we've all had customers quitting wine clubs," Meyer said, adding a newly-proposed speculation tax for out-of-province homeowners hasn't helped. 

"People have called and said they might quit our wine club, sell their homes and never come back to B.C."

Ultimately, Richards said, the dispute could be solved "very easily" with intervention from the top of the political hierarchy. 

"The federal government has made a decision that they want this pipeline to proceed... That's why the federal government needs to step in and show leadership. I think it would solve the animosity that exists, and that we'd be in a much better position in both provinces."



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